The prevalence of Merkel cell polyomavirus in Japanese patients with Merkel cell carcinoma

J Dermatol Sci. 2013 May;70(2):99-107. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.02.010. Epub 2013 Mar 6.


Background: A novel polyomavirus, the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC); however, the prevalence of MCPyV in Japan has not been extensively investigated.

Objective: To clarify the prevalence of MCPyV in Japanese patients with MCC.

Methods: MCPyV DNA was examined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) or frozen tissue samples from 26 patients with MCC diagnosed in four medical centers in Japan. Immunohistochemistry was simultaneously performed using a monoclonal antibody against the viral large T (LT) antigen. FFPE samples from basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) were also analyzed as controls.

Results: Twenty-three out of 26 cases (88.5%) were positive for MCPyV DNA by PCR. The amplified products harbored 4 patterns of mutations. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that one of our strains was closely related to the other Japanese strains previously reported. The LT antigen was expressed in various degrees in 20 of 26 cases (76.9%) by immunohistochemistry. Histological type had little relation to CM2B4 positivity, whereas 3 of 5 trabecular-type tumors showed no staining. The immunoreactivity for CM2B4 did not correlate with the relative viral DNA load. In BCC and SCC, the LT antigen was immunohistochemically positive, but MCPyV DNA was not detected by PCR. The cells around some MCC and non-MCC tumors were stained with CM2B4 with a distribution similar to CD20- and CD45RO- (especially CD8-) positive lymphocytes.

Conclusion: MCPyV was highly positive in Japanese patients with MCC. It is of note that the positive rate differs depending upon the detection method.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / ethnology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / virology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / ethnology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / virology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / ethnology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / genetics
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / ethnology
  • Viral Load / genetics


  • DNA, Viral